Flights honoring Pat Summitt with blue uniforms

A lot of people are paying attention to Tennessee football this week, and for good reason. Last weekend, the Vols annoyed Nick Saban en route to an upset win over Alabama, a celebration of 16 years that involved smoking cigars, scaring umpires and demolishing goal posts.

On Saturday, the Vols — newly ranked No. 3 in the latest AP Top 25 poll — host UT Martin for their return game. And when the Vols take to the field, there will be something a little different about Tennessee uniforms.

So some of you might be wondering: why do the Vols wear blue?

The short answer is that blue is both for Pat Summitt, Tennessee’s longtime legendary women’s basketball coach, and for Title IX.

We’ll go a bit deeper in our explanation than Heupel:

This year is the 50e anniversary of Title IX, the groundbreaking legislation signed into law in 1972 by President Nixon that prohibited educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex. It aimed to level the playing field for women and level the playing field. Simply put: it sparked a sporting revolution and opened doors for women in sport.

A few years before Title IX, Joan Cronan was the women’s basketball coach at Tennessee. Before the start of the 1968-69 season, she went shopping for new uniforms. But no company made women’s basketball uniforms in Tennessee’s signature orange. So, Cronan opted for “Columbia Blue” kits with orange lettering on them. Orange uniforms became available later, but this blue remained with the women’s basketball team.

Pat Head (Summitt) was hired as the Vols women’s hoops coach in 1974 and turned the program into a powerful national brand, winning 16 SEC titles and eight national championships. The basketball hall of famer died in 2016 at the age of 64 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

To honor Title IX and Summitt — the most important woman in Tennessee athletics history — the Vols renamed that iconic color to “Summitt Blue” and incorporated it into the uniforms of several of its teams this season, including football.

Summitt Blue even has its own color codes:

  • Pantone: 2171C
  • CMYK: 75/24/0/0
  • RGB: 72/159/223
  • HEX: #489FDF

Tennessee’s volleyball, football and softball teams are also incorporating Summitt Blue into their uniforms this year.

It’s a good time to be a Tennessee fan right now. Not only are the Vols undefeated in football, but Kellie Harper — who played for Summitt — has the Vols women’s basketball team back in the national conversation and is generating a lot of preseason hype. Tennessee is fifth in the AP Top 25 preseason poll for women’s basketball that was released last week. Last season, Harper’s team won 25 games and made the Sweet 16.

Harper narrated the Tennessee hype video for this week. The Vols are favored by 37.5 points over UT Martin, which is Summitt’s alma mater.

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